Situated in the north, Vietnam’s capital Hanoi is often the first stop on a traveller’s visit due to its flight path and reputation for being the hub of traditional Vietnam culture. Visit this vibrant fast-paced city on your Vietnam holiday and you’ll encounter a vast number of sights and experiences. From crates of chickens whizzing by on the back of mopeds to the intriguing food being cooked on street corners, the photo opportunities are endless and there are many things to do and see.
Master crossing the road…
Stepping out onto the streets of Hanoi for the first time is a little overwhelming to say the least. The heat, the smells, the noise, the traffic – you barely have time to catch your breath. The biggest impression for me was the manic traffic which makes just crossing the road an adventure in itself. As dangerous and ridiculous as it may seem, waiting patiently by the side of the road for the traffic to cease will get you nowhere. It’s a case of taking your life in your hands and just going for it. Vietnamese drivers are very skilled at swerving and avoiding pedestrians so take it slow and you’ll be fine.
Spending a penny
Hanoi locals can be very friendly, welcoming you into their restaurants and helping you choose a good meal from their mouth watering menus. However, friendliness unfortunately does not come hand in hand with cleanliness and you may find that on your Vietnam travels toilets are not quite up to western standards. A particularly memorable experience for me was following signs to the toilets in a restaurant and ending up in a semi destroyed garden shack which appeared to be part of the neighbouring garden. Braving the less than ideal dark damp conditions I lived to tell the tale but would advise taking the opportunity when you can and not waiting until you get caught out.
Be prepared for a shower
As in any city, weather can make all the difference and everyone dreads the day the weather turns. However, Hanoi is quite unique in that whatever the weather the experience doesn’t change that much. I was greeted with two days of solid rain but for me it just added to the experience. There are plenty of activities such as museums (most of which are closed on Mondays), theatres and temples which all offer a great deal of culture. The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is worth a visit for something a bit different but be sure to check out opening times in advance. A particular highlight of mine was the Water Puppet show which was a rather novel theatre experience. It involves wooden men, women and dragons moving about on water to Vietnamese dialogues accompanied by a live orchestra. Yes it is just as surreal and intriguing as it sounds.
Invest in a poncho
If you do find yourself looking for things to do in Hanoi in the rain, my biggest advice would be to invest in some form of protection ASAP. The rain sets in fast and just crossing the road can leave you drenched. Ponchos are fantastic as they don’t restrict you in any way but if that isn’t really your style then be sure to track down an umbrella. It won’t get cold when it rains just be prepared for an increase in mosquitoes. They will emerge when you’re least expecting it but can easily be kept at bay with relevant sprays or creams. So basically, if you are equipped with the appropriate gear, willing to embrace the city, and in the mood for a bit of culture then Hanoi is ready and waiting to be explored!
Want to know more about the delights that Vietnam has to offer? Take a look at our other blogs.